Saturday, April 20, 2013

          Committed to Diversity: Elizabeth Aakhus '11, Serving the Rural Poor

          As a teenager growing up in Bakersfield, Elizabeth Aakhus ’11 was determined to get as far away from the Central Valley as possible. “I knew that if I didn’t work hard, I wouldn’t get out,” she says. For the majority of her friends and classmates, this was the case, and it was nearly the case for her.

          In her senior year of high school, she was suspended; her offense was talking back to a school police officer and refusing to follow instructions. The way Aakhus sees it now, this experience was the exception rather than the rule.

          “I got the suspension removed from my record because my parents advocated for me,” she says. “That was when I saw the gross disparities in how schools mete out punishment, especially to people who do not have someone fighting for them. This experience was a key factor in my decision to become a public interest lawyer.”

          Aakhus enrolled at NYU and went on to UC Hastings, where she took advantage of many hands-on opportunities. She joined two student organizations that offered direct client contact, the General Assistance Advocacy Project and Homeless Legal Services, and enrolled in the Civil Justice Clinic. “In the clinic, I learned how to work one-on-one with clients,” she says, “but more importantly, I learned how challenging it can be for people to gain access to lawyers, especially people who are living below the poverty line.”

          In 2011, she was awarded the Ralph Santiago Abascal Fellowship, a yearlong award given to a UC Hastings student to pursue antipoverty and civil rights work. Aakhus joined the Delano office of California Legal Rural Assistance (CLRA), an organization dedicated to improving the lives of the state’s rural poor, where she is now a staff attorney. She focused her fellowship on education equity issues, specifically on the disproportionate impact that school discipline has on students of color.

          “My challenge has been to make sure that parents and youth know their rights,” she says. “Education is such an important way to counteract the effects of poverty, and it’s gratifying to help kids stay on track and have opportunities to advance.”

          Read more UC Hastings Magazine.

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Monday, January 23, 2017

          A Class Above: Professor David Takacs receives 2016 Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence

          Friends, colleagues, alumni, students, and other members of the UC Hastings community gathered to celebrate Professor Takacs as the winner of the 2016 Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence.
          Tuesday, January 17, 2017

          Professor Leo Martinez Elected Fellow of American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel

          One of only five academics in elite organization focused on the creative, ethical, and efficient adjudication of insurance coverage and extra-contractual disputes, peer-provided scholarship, professional coordination and the improvement of the relationship between and among its diverse members.
          Thursday, January 12, 2017

          ‘She taught me the meaning of true bravery’: 2L Kelsey Campbell advocates for refugee legislation

          Former Pentagon foreign policy advisor and Air Force veteran promotes visa programs to protect refugees, like her friend Sura, who supported U.S. Armed Forces as interpreters.
          Thursday, January 05, 2017

          How to Ask a Question: Renowned trial attorney Shanin Specter brings his expertise back to UC Hastings

          Whether to capture the attention of a jury, conduct a deposition, or even order a Starbucks, Shanin Specter shares his experience on the best way to ask and answer a question in his upcoming “How to Ask a Question” course at UC Hastings.
          Tuesday, January 03, 2017

          1L Ryan Khojasteh Appointed to San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission

          “It's for my generation to rise up, to play our part, and to allow other people to have hope,” says Khojasteh, son of immigrants.
          Go to News Archive